Mindfulness has numerous benefits that make it a good practice to introduce and cultivate. It helps to give you some control over your mind, your thoughts and feelings. Practicing mindfulness techniques for just a few minutes a day can improve your health and wellbeing.
When you are starting out, it is better to keep it simple. Try some of these easy mindfulness exercises to help you find some calm in your day.
30 Seconds of Mindfulness
Take 10 deep, even breaths, counting to 3 or 4 on each inhale and the same on each exhale. Try to stay focused on your breath, and if your mind wanders just return your attention back to your breath. Then simply notice how you feel when you are done. Are you more relaxed and calmer than before? This is a great way to start your mindfulness practice exercises. You can do this anywhere you like and whenever you think of it.
Mindful breathing exercise.
This mindfulness technique can make you more centered and peaceful while you are doing it, and you can take that with you through your day. Build your practice with a minute or more each day to start with. Then each week, when you are comfortable, increase your time by a few minutes.
- Set a timer for a minute.
- Focus on your breath and try to make it even, in for 3 out for 3.
- Bring your attention to where you feel the breath most, the nose, chest or stomach.
- Let go of any thoughts you notice without judgement and return to the breath.
- Do this until the timer goes off.
Take a few minutes to scan your body for feelings and sensations. Start at the head or toes, and spend a moment on each part of your body looking for tension or other sensations. If you mind wanders simply bring it back to the body without judgement. When you have done each body part, you can then expand your awareness to encompass your whole body. This mindful meditation exercise can be short or long, it’s up to you.
Choose an object near you to be the focus of your mindfulness. This can be a piece of fruit, a flower or plant, a plate or glass, anything at all. Look at the object and try to remain focused on it for as long as you can. Try to notice it as if you were seeing it for the first time. What color is it? What shape is it? If your mind starts to wander, just notice and bring it back to your object. Really looking at something and giving it your full attention can enhance and improve your mindfulness.
Choose one meal a day to eat without distractions. No TV, radio, phone or reading. Focus your attention solely on what you are eating. How it looks, how it feels, smells and tastes. Savor each mouthful slowly and with purpose. Think about where your food came from and everyone who was involved in getting it to your plate. Give thanks to these people. How do you feel afterwards? Did you really enjoy your food? Many of us eat too quickly without really enjoying what we are eating. This simple mindful exercise can change that for us. Eating mindfully can help bring more calm to your day.
Stop what you are doing and simply notice what you are experiencing right now, wherever you are. What can you hear? What can you see? What can you feel? What can you smell? Spend a few moments on each sense, noticing what you can. Being more aware of your surroundings will help you be more present in your life.
While you are walking, clear your mind and focus on your body and your breathing. Feel the ground beneath your feet. Feel the muscles in your legs. The wind on your skin. The fresh air in your lungs. Observe your surroundings as you walk, look at the sky and the view and other people around you. Enjoy being in the present moment.
Put some music on and really listen to it. Give your awareness to the music without judging it as good or bad. Immerse yourself in the sound. Try to hear the different instruments that make up the music. Notice how it makes you feel. Is it relaxing or energising? Does it make you want to move or dance? Does it make you feel happy or sad? You can use this exercise to listen to your favorite music with a new appreciation, or to new music with curiosity and appreciation.
Mindful Immersion Activity
Choose an everyday routine activity, like washing the dishes, unloading the dishwasher, doing the vacuuming or brushing your teeth. Rather than thinking about something else, focus your attention on the what you are doing. Feel the sensations it creates in your body. These types of mindfulness activities can transform a mundane task into something you can enjoy. Choose one task each day to practice your mindfulness.
Spend a few minutes during your day to focus on your senses.
- Sit comfortably with your back straight, or lay on the floor. Take a few deep breaths and relax your body.
- Start to focus your attention on your breath as it goes in and out of your body.
- When you notice your mind wandering, just observe without judgment and return to the breath.
- Then move your attention to any sounds you can hear around you. The sounds of your breath and body. Sounds in the room you are in. Then expand to what you can hear further away from you.
- Next, focus on what you can smell. Notice any strong scents you can pick up on. There may be faint smells or you may smell nothing at all. Notice that as well.
- Bring your attention to taste. Can you taste anything at all? Notice and be aware of what you may or may not be tasting right now.
- Now bring your attention to what you are feeling in your body. Feel where your skin is in contact with your clothes or the chair or the floor. Feel the air on your body. Are you warm or cool? Notice any sensations you feel inside your body, any warmth or tingling.
- With closed eyes, visualise the room you are in. The colors and shapes surrounding you. The pictures on the wall and furniture in the room.
- Spend a few moments noticing your thoughts and your mind. Are they racing around in the past or the future, or calmly floating by? Or are they completely in the present moment?
- When you time is up, gently open your eyes and look around you. How do you feel? Are you more relaxed and peaceful than before? You can take this relaxed, calm feeling into your day.
These activities for mindfulness are a great place to start as many of them are easy to introduce into your everyday life. Do one of them each day for a week and notice how you feel. You can keep practicing with your favorite ones each day, but you should always try to explore new mindfulness activities regularly to stretch yourself.
Other Mindful Breathing Exercises
- Sit or lie comfortably with your back straight.
- Take a few deep breaths and relax your body.
- Let your breathing be natural and start to count on each exhale…
- Count to five and then start at one again.
- If your mind wanders return your focus to the breath and start from one again.
- Do this for a set amount of time, 5 or 10 minutes.
If you find yourself counting past five it probably means your attention has moved away from your breath. If so, start at one again.
- Set a timer for 5 minutes.
- Sit comfortably and relax your body.
- Breathe in to a count of five seconds.
- Hold your breath for five seconds and continue to expand your chest upward and outward.
- Breathe out for five seconds.
- Hold your breath for five seconds.
- Repeat until your time is up.
If you cannot make five seconds you can start smaller. Just make sure the timing is the same. In for three, hold for three, out for three, hold for three. This will help improve your heart rate variability and improve your mindfulness.
Breath Matching Your Heartbeat
- Place two fingers against your pulse at the top of your neck just below your jaw.
- Breathe in for 10 heartbeats.
- Breathe out for 10 heartbeats.
- Repeat until your time is up.
You can start with fewer heartbeats and work your way up if you need to. See if you can increase to 20 heartbeats with regular practice.
- Sit comfortably and place one hand on your chest and one on your belly.
- Breathe fully into your diaphragm and feel your chest and belly rise .
- Exhale slowly.
- Keep each breath steady and even.
- Repeat for ten minutes.
Guided Mindfulness Exercises
When starting out with mindfulness and meditation, it can be easier using some guided audio to help keep you focused. There are plenty of great resources online with a variety of mindful activities you can try out. Here are a few to get you started:
Finding a good mindfulness exercise that you love to do can help you to cultivate your daily mindfulness practice.
Practice a few of these techniques each week by incorporating some into your regular daily activities, and also by starting a formal meditation practice.